Monday, October 29, 2001

Cancer walk draws thousands

Students show support for teacher

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When teacher Nicki Musgrove walked 5 miles to raise funds to fight breast cancer Sunday, among her companions were students Whitney Johnston, who prays for her daily, and Jessica Cain, who beat cancer and says Mrs. Musgrove can, too.

Nicki Musgrove and her husband, Todd, are surrounded by people who walked on her behalf.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        More than 50 Rapid Run Middle School students, parents and teachers participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer benefit walk when they learned the 30-year-old art teacher has the disease.

        About 9,000 people took part in the American Cancer Society's fifth annual walk, raising about $600,000, organizers said. The Rapid Run contingent, which included Mrs. Musgrove's family and Oak Hills School District central office employees, raised about $1,700.

        After the two-hour walk, Mrs. Musgrove was exhausted, but grateful that so many people care about her.

        “It just makes me happy to know the kids wanted to be there. Nobody made them be there. It makes me feel pretty special,” she said.

        Mrs. Musgrove learned she had cancer 20 days after she married in 1999.

        “We were on cloud nine, and when we found it, it pulled the rug out from under us,” she said.

        Mrs. Musgrove had a lumpectomy, plus follow-up chemotherapy and radiation. But after a brief remission, the cancer returned this summer, spreading to her lungs.

        Now, she's two months into a six-month regimen of chemotherapy every Friday, which leaves her tired the first part of the school week.

        “A lot of people ask me, "How can you be working?' Part of my treatment is to be here,” Mrs. Musgrove said. “I love this place.”

"Are you going to die?'

        Until this school year, Mrs. Musgrove's art students didn't know she was battling cancer. But in mid-September, she was hospitalized for a week due to a blood clot.

        “When I got back, I felt I needed to tell them everything,” she said. “Some just sat there dumbfounded, like, "Too much infor mation about my teacher.' Some got choked up. "What does this mean? Are you going to die?' It's a fair question.

        “I gave them the statistics I knew. I told them my doctor and I both feel there's no reason to give up.”

        Mrs. Musgrove has been amazed by the support from students, who responded with cards, flowers, an angel doll and prayers.

        “I was really upset,” said Whitney Johnston, a 13-year-old eighth-grader. “I went home and told my parents. We have a little prayer list at home. We make sure we pray for her every night.”

        Jessica Cain knows what Mrs. Musgrove is going through. The 13-year-old eighth-grader had cancer and was cured. Her broth er also has cancer, which is in remission.

        “That gave me hope people can overcome cancer,” she said. “I think she can overcome it, too.”

        Helen Hoffmann, a parent, said she organized the Rapid Run walkers because it's important for Mrs. Musgrove to know she is surrounded by staff and students who care about her. “It will make it easier to cope with this and get through it.”

        Mrs. Musgrove taught Mrs. Hoffmann's son, Kyle, who also walked. “She's a teacher in our school,” said Kyle, a 14-year-old eighth-grader. ""We all need to care for them in their bad times and when they're sick.”

        Students solicited donations for the walk, plus collected money in the school lunchroom. They signed a gray sweatshirt that Mrs. Musgrove wore on the walk. Each walker received a clay pin, made by art teachers and students, depicting the familiar pink ribbon.

        Even though she's been at Rapid Run only two years, Mrs. Musgrove has made a big impression.

        “She's really funny,” said Shannan Kleefeld, who teaches technology classes at Rapid Run. “She's got that dry sense of humor. She's very perky, even when she's exhausted from treatments. She's a very eclectic personality, so she's got something everybody can identify with.”

        Whitney likes her because Mrs. Musgrove gave her a nickname, “Giggles,” and it stuck. “She's so enthusiastic. She's a wonderful influence. She's just a great person to be around.”

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